Want To Know How To Grow The Church?

Suffering is one of God’s ordained means for the growth of his church. He brought salvation to the world through Christ, our suffering Savior, and he now spreads salvation in the world through Christians as suffering saints.
— Nik Ripken, The Insanity of God

Church growth seminars and conferences don't teach it. As Christians we attempt to avoid and minimize it. The big "it" is suffering. Yet suffering is the very means God uses to grow His church and to grow us, His people.

Because we all live in a fallen and broken world, we all have faced suffering, albeit in different degrees and in different forms. (2 Timothy 3:12) And yet, as much as I hate to admit it, I know that it is when God brings and allows suffering in my own life - that is when I'm often drawn into a deeper and greater dependance upon Him. I am made more aware of my weakness, my need, God's love and His grace when I am faced with difficulty, trials and suffering. Placed at the end of my own resources  - I then have a greater awareness of the deep riches and resources that Christ offers.


Of course we hate to experience suffering and our heart certainly aches to watch others go through it as well. Many of us have witnessed the sheer brutality and cruelty of ISIS as they have tortured and murdered followers and servants of Jesus. (In many ways I hesitate to mention my suffering in the same breath with the suffering of the persecuted church for fear that you'll think I'm making a equivalency. The cost of their suffering was ultimate, their life - more than I've ever been asked to give - up until now.) As we've watched the videos our emotions have been varied. We have wept over the cruelty. We've been angry over the injustice. And we've asked God, "Why are you allowing this to happen to your people?". From all "appearances" it looks as if the church and His people seem to be on the losing side in life having to experience such incredible brutality. 

Yet even in the midst of suffering, darkness and evil, God is at work. His plan and purposes won't be thwarted. Although often times a mystery and hidden from us, God will redeem suffering for His purposes and work it toward His own glory. To get a glimpse of that truth, read here an account from Mission Frontiers on how God is using ISIS to open up the hearts of Muslims, that have been for too long, far from Him.

A few weeks ago I received an email from one of my students. She’s working among Muslim women and had just gotten off the phone with one of her friends who was weeping uncontrollably. My student initially assumed someone in her family had died. However, once my student’s friend regained her composure she made a startling statement: “I have been a Muslim for 41 years and in all that time have never questioned Islam. But now I have decided to leave it.” When my student asked her, “Why?” she related that she had been watching ISIS videos, and, because of the brutality that they justified as being the “methods of the Prophet,” she decided to leave Islam.
— Mission Frontiers

I am certain that God is doing yet even more than what we see in this testimony above. It was the suffering of Jesus on the cross that payed for sin so that we may find peace and reconciliation with our Father. Therefore why should we be surprised when we suffer - that God doesn't continue to use suffering to draw us nearer to Himself.  Therefore when you face suffering, difficulties and trials - respond by faith -knowing that God loves you and that what you are facing God will use to transform and conform you more and more into the image of His son, Jesus (Romans 8:29) - and you will be drawn into deeper intimacy with Him.